Image Isn’t Everything

“More big trucks mixing with cars worries officials,” read the headline of a recent USA Today article. The article says states are studying ways – from truck-only lanes to limiting truck travel during rush hours – to help cars and trucks share the road more safely. According to a study by The Road Information Project, the strategies stem from “concerns about the increased danger of crashes between trucks and more-vulnerable cars.”

To make matters worse, the article points to a shift by truck traffic to smaller suburban and rural roads, a change it says increases the risk of accidents between cars and trucks, especially since two-lane roads leave little margin for error.

The fears spelled out by the USA Today article are at the heart of trucking’s image problem. Let’s face it, big trucks are scary. Just ask anyone who shares the road with them. Whether or not these fears are well-founded depends on who’s driving the truck. Is it driven by one of the majority of good guys or one of the few who shouldn’t have gotten a license in the first place? No matter. When it comes to image, perception is reality.

In an effort to change the public’s perception, the American Trucking Associations recently unveiled a new image campaign designed to build respect for the trucking industry by emphasizing its safety record and the important role it plays in our economy. The “Good Stuff. Trucks Bring It” logo will emblazon trailers across the country. ATA also hopes the campaign will instill a sense of pride and professionalism among truckers.

It’s a noble idea – one that can certainly do no harm and may do some good. Then again, like all primarily cosmetic programs, it will do nothing to smooth out the lines and warts that caused the image problem in the first place.

No image program will bring back my friend Randy’s mother – who was killed by a trucker whose log book in no way jived with his receipts. It won’t give confidence to the four-wheeler who looks in his mirror to find a truck grille so close that he can’t see the logo. Nor will it instill pride in the good, safe owner-operators who worry about sharing the road with other truckers who tailgate and speed – all while barreling down the highway in 80,000 pounds of steel.

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But if it gets one American to pause and think about the important role the trucking industry plays in our nation or causes one trucker to walk a little more proudly – that will at least be a start.